Sluggish economy hits agency personnel shifts

Friday - 11/19/2010, 3:34pm EST

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The lagging economy has taken a toll on federal agencies that need to relocate employees, according to an analyst in the General Employee Relocation Resource Center Services Administration (ERRC).

"It's challenging for employees to sell their home. And then when they get to the new location, it's hard for them to buy a new one," said Julie Blanford, an ERRC program analyst.

Blanford said more employees are turning down agency requests to relocate. And more relocations are failing.

That, said Blanford, means "agencies are struggling with how to fill positions and service requirements...If they can't relocate people there to do them, then other costs go up" to fill the jobs with temporary personnel or to shift resources so the agencies' work continues.

As a result, the ERRC has launched new initiatives to help agencies mitigate the risks. The center helps agencies identify alternatives, for example.

"Some agencies have extended rotation cycles ... So employees who [previously moved] every two years are now, maybe, moving every three or four years," said Blanford.

The center supports about 85 percent of all relocating federal employees. But instead of helping them directly with moving services, for example, the center helps the employing agencies craft contracts and programs that can assist with relocations.